At the far eastern end of Interstate 40 lies Wilmington, a charming little city on the southeast North Carolina coast. There are nearby beaches, a downtown boardwalk along the Cape Fear River, lots of bars and restaurants, and interesting architecture and history. And though it’s only a little over 2 hours from our home, we’ve only driven there a few times – the last time in 2009.
This characterizes our dilemma since moving to North Carolina almost seven years ago. We now live reasonably close to both the coast and the mountains, but our free time is limited and largely controlled by the predictable and unpredictable demands of our careers. It was our feeling that we had seen so little and were missing so much that first got us talking about the idea of exploring the region in a motorhome.
Last Saturday around lunchtime, I read that Mipso – a talented “newgrass” band I had heard only on the radio – would be performing live that night in Wilmington. The venue was also intriguing: Thalian Hall, a restored pre-Civil War building that was originally constructed as both a City Hall and an Opera House. But of course that would be an evening concert, and by the time it was over, we would be too tired to start the trip back home.
Wait, isn’t that the point of having a little home that travels with you? It took very little time to buy concert tickets online, make dinner reservations, retrieve the van from its storage site, and load it up with some clothes, food, and fresh water. We bolted for Wilmington that afternoon and were able to find plenty of parking options downtown (the van fit nicely into a parallel parking space behind the concert hall). Thalian Hall was an acoustic gem and Mipso even stepped in front of the stage to perform some songs without electronic amplification. Their set showcased tight harmonies, a new permanent member (Libby Rodenbough on fiddle), and new songs from a soon-to-be-released album.
We stayed overnight at a nearby campground, and despite a cold snap that sent temperatures dropping into the low 30s that night, we remained comfortable with the van’s propane-fired furnace. While Virginia was driving the van back home the next morning, I decided to check out Mipso's upcoming concert schedule online. Oh, they will be performing in Chapel Hill in just a couple of weeks . . . oops. But at least our little trip revealed how the new motorhome could work well as a spontaneous getaway vehicle, and we’ll definitely be back to Wilmington – after the weather warms up!